RSA pushes usability in security

RSA 2002: Security must get more usable, says RSA as it launches a new version of its Web authentication tool at its annual European conference

RSA Security is putting usability at the head of its product goals, as it hopes that future authentication products will be used more widely -- by administrators, not security specialists. The latest version of its Web authentication product, ClearTrust 5.0, is intended to be more usable, and more interoperable with other products than previous versions.

"There are 13 million security tokens out there, but there are tens of millions of passwords," said Art Coviello, chief executive of RSA Security, introducing the new version. "It's our job to eliminate them." Two-factor security based on tokens will have to replace the current single-factor method based on passwords, he said.

Single-factor security, most often exemplified by user IDs and passwords, is based on a very simple premise: what you know. In contrast, two-factor security isn't limited to what you know. It's also "what you have."

Introducing two-factor security into the workplace means making it easier to use than it has been previously, added Coviello.

John Worrall, marketing vice president of RSA, said usability had been high on the list of priorities during development of ClearTrust 5.0. With this version, said Worrall, "ClearTrust has gone through our usability lab for the first time."

There is an imperative to make such security products easy to use, he said. "In future the security market is not a niche. If the user interface is not good enough, it will slow down user acceptance." Previous RSA products have been aimed at expert security administrators.

RSA Security now has the same user interface on its ClearTrust and RSA mobile products (RSA mobile sends a one-time authentication code to the user's mobile phone) so administrators will find it easier to handle both. "There is a consistent methodology for the solution in both spaces," said Worrall, promising that future RSA products will have the same user interface.

ClearTrust 5.0 is the second version of the product to come from RSA, since the company bought ClearTrust's developer Securant in September 2001. Other new features include compliance with the Oasis group's markup language for security assertions, SAML, and better integration with RSA's other products, Keon digital certificate management and BSAFE encryption

RSA employs one usability specialist, but it has a usability lab where potential partners and users can try out pages built with different principles. "We want to map the user interface to the way things work," said Worrall.

Peter Judge reported from the RSA Conference in Paris.

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